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Road report: From Toronto to Orlando
Old 12-21-2010, 12:51 PM   #1
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Road report: From Toronto to Orlando

Hi all,

We safely arrived in Orlando Sunday evening.

Sat Toronto to Erie Ontario: Some light flurries between Niagara Falls and Erie Ontario
Sat Buffalo to Erie PA: Smooth, road conditions were great
Sat Erie PA to Pitsburgh: Smooth, road conditions were great
Sat Pitsburgh to Princeton WV: Winding road, hilly (some sections), some warning signs of ice before bridges. So I slowed down.
Sun WV to Charlotte NC: Smooth
Sun Charlotte NC to Columbia: Accident on I77 just before Columbia, I77 was closed. I had to use other route
Sun Columbia NC to Savanah GA: Smooth
Savanah to Daytona Beach FL: Smooth but had to follow signs of I95 all the time around Jacksonville FL, because I95 was "twisting" like a worm
Daytona Beach to Orlando: Smooth
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Old 12-21-2010, 12:54 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by LuvSouth View Post
Hi all,

We safely arrived in Orlando Sunday evening.

Sat Toronto to Erie Ontario: Some light flurries between Niagara Falls and Erie Ontario
Sat Buffalo to Erie PA: Smooth, road conditions were great
Sat Erie PA to Pitsburgh: Smooth, road conditions were great
Sat Pitsburgh to Princeton WV: Winding road, hilly (some sections), some warning signs of ice before bridges. So I slowed down.
Sun WV to Charlotte NC: Smooth
Sun Charlotte NC to Columbia: Accident on I77 just before Columbia, I77 was closed. I had to use other route
Sun Columbia NC to Savanah GA: Smooth
Savanah to Daytona Beach FL: Smooth but had to follow signs of I95 all the time around Jacksonville FL, because I95 was "twisting" like a worm
Daytona Beach to Orlando: Smooth
Glad to hear you arrived safe and sound. But what about street lights in the National Forest - did you see any?
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Old 12-21-2010, 01:59 PM   #3
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I think they would have only been on last night, during the lunar eclipse. Most nights there's enough illumination from the Milky Way.
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Old 12-21-2010, 02:40 PM   #4
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Sounds like things went about as well as can be expected this time of year. Hopefully I have as good of luck when I make the trek in february.
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Old 12-21-2010, 03:09 PM   #5
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There is no way I'd drive through that National Forest after September.
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Old 12-21-2010, 03:37 PM   #6
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I didn't cross the Jefferson National Forest at night as I checked into the hotel in Princeton WV just before the forest, it was 9:30pm anyway, too late for me to continue and I was tired too !

I left the hotel at 8:30 am Sunday morning. So, it was not dark ! There are 2 tunnels in the forest, about a minute drive each. The tunnels are lighted.

Just before we entered the first tunnel, wow, it was spectacular looking up the mountain ... All the trees (no leaves) were covered by ice/snow, it was spectacular ...

It was hilly and there were "runaway ramps" for ... trailers as it's a long way descending from the top of mountains (from PA to NC) as we have been climbing the mountains one after another.

Any way, shopping in Florida is great, we spent 2 days shopping at the outlet malls (Orlando Prime Outlet and Premium Outlet), you wouldn't believe how "cheap" it is or how expensive in Toronto Canada.

It's worth shopping in Florida if you live in Toronto ...

That's all for now !

Will report more ...
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Old 12-23-2010, 02:51 PM   #7
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I noticed that wind speed is not as strong as Toronto.

If someone asked me about how it felt like in the morning, I could tell him/her that on a sunny day, calm or minimum wind speed, 15C (59F), I felt comfortable with a long sleeve T shirt, no jacket in Orlando.

If it's 18C or 65F, I will wear a T-shirt and shorts ...

Stocking up on items that one needs in Canada is a good strategy. I picked up a few pairs of shoes (Clarks) from US$49 to US$79 that would normally have cost me for well over Cad$100, probably in the range of Cad$129-169 for a pair. It's so expensive in Toronto.

I picked up pants that would have cost 4 times more in Toronto.

My wife picked up a lot of goodies, some cosmetic (Shisheido brand) that would have cost her Cad$169, but it only costs US$99.

Gas ? It's from US$2.8 to 2.95; Let's suppose it's Cad$1.1 x 3.785 = Cad4.1635/US gallon, assuming Cad & USD at par, gas in the US is about 30% to 33% cheaper than Toronto.

Edit Add: No lights in the forest and there are a number of bridges, so drivers should be cautious ...
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Old 12-27-2010, 11:49 AM   #8
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I didn't realize how much more expensive items are in Toronto. Is it all the added tax?
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Old 12-29-2010, 07:23 AM   #9
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I didn't realize how much more expensive items are in Toronto. Is it all the added tax?
The "problems" we have in Canada in general, and Toronto in particular are as follows (I believe):
(1) Land is more expensive, hence merchants pay higher rates.
(2) Costs is much higher to build the malls: Insulation for the weather, bricks, maintenance ... the list goes on with cold weather.
(3) Wear and tear: Cold weather causes a lot of problems to the infratructure, buildings ...
(4) Maintenance: Cost to hire companies to shovel snow, salt the parking lot ...
(5) Heating bill in the mall.
(6) Air conditioning: Same as in Florida.
(7) High property taxes.
(8) 13% sales tax as opposed to 6.5% sales tax in Florida (it adds up).
(9) Higher cost of living, hence retailers must pay more to staff compared to Florida.
(10) Transportation cost is more if shipped fromt the US (assuming longer distance)
(11) Import tax
(12) Higher mark up (my guess as merchants in Toronto need to make more $ to make a living ..., hence higher mark up)
(13) Higher income tax rate (compared to Florida), hence merchants will mark up higher to make a living ...
(14) Gas is at least 35% more expensive than the US
(15) More ...

In short, in can be summarized into 2 words "rip off" in Toronto or Canada (Toronto is considered the "cheapest" in Canada".

BTW, computers are much cheaper in Florida than Toronto ...
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Old 01-03-2011, 08:05 AM   #10
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Sat: Got up after new years eve party. Not so smooth
Sat: Went to the washroom, had bowel movement, took some tylenol. Better
Sat: Had breakfast, cereal and toast with coffee, saw dog, Good
Sat: Went outside, warm day, walked dog. Good
Sat: Came home, surfed the net, had lunch with DW. Good
Sat: Went to visit inlaws, made a few calls. OK
Sat: Had dinner with wine, wine as particularly good (Carménère)
Sat: Watched a movie and the news, went to bed. Good, think I'll do it again tomorrow!
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Old 01-03-2011, 10:36 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by LuvSouth View Post
The "problems" we have in Canada in general, and Toronto in particular are as follows (I believe):
(1) Land is more expensive, hence merchants pay higher rates.
(2) Costs is much higher to build the malls: Insulation for the weather, bricks, maintenance ... the list goes on with cold weather.
(3) Wear and tear: Cold weather causes a lot of problems to the infratructure, buildings ...
(4) Maintenance: Cost to hire companies to shovel snow, salt the parking lot ...
(5) Heating bill in the mall.
(6) Air conditioning: Same as in Florida.
(7) High property taxes.
(8) 13% sales tax as opposed to 6.5% sales tax in Florida (it adds up).
(9) Higher cost of living, hence retailers must pay more to staff compared to Florida.
(10) Transportation cost is more if shipped fromt the US (assuming longer distance)
(11) Import tax
(12) Higher mark up (my guess as merchants in Toronto need to make more $ to make a living ..., hence higher mark up)
(13) Higher income tax rate (compared to Florida), hence merchants will mark up higher to make a living ...
(14) Gas is at least 35% more expensive than the US
(15) More ...

In short, in can be summarized into 2 words "rip off" in Toronto or Canada (Toronto is considered the "cheapest" in Canada".

BTW, computers are much cheaper in Florida than Toronto ...
You can move, you know.
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Old 01-03-2011, 06:51 PM   #12
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It's not easy to get a green card, though it's not impossible.

Having said that, I like Canada but will spend the winter in Florida or in some warmer regions in the winter.
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Old 01-03-2011, 06:56 PM   #13
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Toronto is considered the "cheapest" in Canada".
Having lived in the Toronto area for most of my life, I never realised that. I've vacation in other areas of Canada and found it to be much cheaper then Toronto. Then again, maybe I read this out of context.

I learned something new today.
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Old 01-03-2011, 07:35 PM   #14
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Well, Toronto has the "lowest" prices because of volume, I think. Having said that, it's hard to say all items are cheaper in Toronto than other places in Canada. There are always items cheaper in one city but more expensive in other cities.

But in general, my grocery bills in general are cheaper than the Prairies. Why ? I think there are more grocers in Toronto than the Prairies, hence competition which lower the prices.

Also, prices are always lower for higher volume or purchasing power. That's why corporations merge so that they have a higher purchasing power and clientels, I suppose.
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Old 01-05-2011, 11:47 AM   #15
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I didn't cross the Jefferson National Forest at night as I checked into the hotel in Princeton WV just before the forest, it was 9:30pm anyway, too late for me to continue and I was tired too !

I left the hotel at 8:30 am Sunday morning. So, it was not dark ! There are 2 tunnels in the forest, about a minute drive each. The tunnels are lighted.

Just before we entered the first tunnel, wow, it was spectacular looking up the mountain ... All the trees (no leaves) were covered by ice/snow, it was spectacular ...

It was hilly and there were "runaway ramps" for ... trailers as it's a long way descending from the top of mountains (from PA to NC) as we have been climbing the mountains one after another.

Any way, shopping in Florida is great, we spent 2 days shopping at the outlet malls (Orlando Prime Outlet and Premium Outlet), you wouldn't believe how "cheap" it is or how expensive in Toronto Canada.

It's worth shopping in Florida if you live in Toronto ...

That's all for now !

Will report more ...
Florida shopping is fantastic. Miromar in SWF is best. Closer to home, Syracuse Carosel mall, or Waterloo west of Syracuse.
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Old 01-05-2011, 01:06 PM   #16
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Florida shopping is fantastic. Miromar in SWF is best. Closer to home, Syracuse Carosel mall, or Waterloo west of Syracuse.
We went to Coconut Point mall when we were in SWF last time but we didn't have time to visit Miromar as we were in SWF for just a few days.

How fantastic is Miromar ? I remember I saw Miromar on the highway but not able to stop for a day to do shopping. Would you share your shopping experience with us ? We will definitely stop by Miromar next time if we go to SWF.
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Old 01-06-2011, 08:43 AM   #17
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Coconut point and Naples Waterside is where you go to look at the high end stuff and pay full retail. Never bought anything there, never heard of anyone buying anything there. That's where trophy wives shop as their compensation for marrying for money
; - )

Miromar is where they pretty much give the stuff away. Don't forget to check out the $2 lasagna special at the restaurant at the eastern end of the long tail of the U.

If you want to really experience another planet, go into the Design Centre on the other side of the road from Miromar. Imagine a middle size Canadian mall and you are the only person there...you actually have to sign in. Its where designers pulling together Arab zillionaire homes go to shop.

The dollars at par and they are giving away real estate down there...once in a lifetime opportunity.

Check out the cheap jetblue flights from Syracuse to Orlando. Its probably too far for TO, but Plattsburg has two discount operators now going into Florida really cheap.
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Old 01-06-2011, 09:01 AM   #18
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We are also planning to snowbird in SW Florida in the future as I felt very comfortable weatherwise when we were down there in Dec/Jan, that of course excludes the occasional cold spell in Florida.

I checked out Airtrans departing from Buffalo to Orlando or Fort Myers, the rate is pretty reasonable. We could take Megabus from downtown Toronto (Royal York hotel) to Buffalo airport (yes, Megabus just added a new stop in Buffalo airport). The bus ticket ? From US$7 to around US$17 one way, can you believe it ? It's darn cheap !

Flights from Buffalo to Orlando or Fort Myers are also much cheaper compared to Toronto to Orlando or Fort Myers.

I heard that Toronto International Airport is one of the most expensive airport to land in the world, this refers to it's landing fees.
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Old 01-06-2011, 10:21 AM   #19
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here is some content I pulled together on buying in SWF
==
WEATHER | HURRICANES | REAL ESTATE | JOBS | SCHOOLS

WEATHER - SWF does not get any snow, but there are about five months of very hot summers (>90F), often with high humidity dew points (>70F DP ) and mid-December to mid-February can have brief cold snaps where nights can dip into the 30s and 40s, but usually only for a week or two.

The most reliable pleasant weather is October/November and March/April. If thinking of moving here year round, make sure you spend some time here in summer, when everyone runs from their cars to inside to escape the often oppressive heat, so that you know what you are signing up for. Most people adapt, but some leave Florida due to the summers or are unhappy about it.

This is of course not an issue for snowbirds who go back north in the summer, or for second home people who spend their stays in the pool or at the beach. Beach area homes are slightly cooler than inland area homes in the summer. For some, sitting inside looking out at a hot sunny day is less depressing than looking at snow and gray skies.

Weather forecasts in the summer may show rain for many days, but this is most often just an afternoon tropical shower, with sunny skies the rest of the day. You need to experience all this yourself, BEFORE you commit to a purchase.

Bear in mind that often the heat can be the same or higher where you now live but the dew point is usually much higher in SW Florida, and that will make a big difference in comfort. But, once again, most people that live year-round eventually acclimate.

HURRICANES - Hurricane season runs June 1 to November 1, but the historical odds of a Cat 1 or higher in Lee County is about 16% for the entire season, so the odds that there would be one during YOUR short visit is minimal. The season peaks in early September, so try to avoid that period by a month either side, or have flexible arrangements. Hurricanes more or less announce themselves a week ahead of time and you can monitor the projected paths. National Hurricane Center

For ownership, if you are concerned, consider living in higher number evacuation zones (inland on higher land) and buying property built after the new building code was put in place in 2001, or reassure yourself that wind mitigation has been done on an older property. Beware that properties near inland rivers and sloughs may also be considered high risk for FEMA insurance purposes.

PURCHASING REAL
ESTATE - Thoroughly explore Florida and neighboring States and then decide on which county, near beach or on canal, rural or urban, or on gated condos with or without a captive golf course. Each choice has benefits and costs/risks. If you can, buy in the off-season. The more restraint you show in delaying purchasing, by renting initially or vacationing in the area, the better a choice you will make that suits your needs.

Pay attention to monthly carrying costs
. Florida real estate is “on a super sale” now, but make sure you do not commit to a property without seeing the full county tax bill, including ad valorem taxes not only for the city, but as well the county (capital & general funds, library, hyacinth & mosquito control), school, SWF water levies, inland waterway, & non-ad-valorem Community Development District (CDD) bond payment (if applicable), as well as HOA fees, and insurance (regular and flood). Note that MLS short sales are very uncertain and can take months, and that post-foreclosure MLS Bank Sales are much easier. For the brave, there is this:
Tax Deed Sales - https://www.lee.realtaxdeed.com/INDE...METHOD=TAXDEED
Foreclosure sales - https://www.lee.realforeclose.com/IN...THOD=FORECLOSE

The good news is that the Florida property tax homestead exemption reduces the value of a home for assessment of property taxes by $50,000, so a home that was actually worth $100,000 would be taxed as though it was worth only $50,000. However, the second $25,000 of homestead coverage does not apply to the school portion of property taxes.
Exemptions - http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/propert...xemptions.html
Here are some useful government tools:
Look up a Tax bill - Lee County Tax Collector's Office
Insurance Est’r - Compare Homeowner's Insurance Rates
Flood Insurance -http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/residential_coverage/rc_overview.jsp
Lee County Property Line

Pay attention to which evacuation zone the property is in
. This will not only bear on the actual risk to you and your property, but as well will affect how often you will be ordered to leave the area (if you summer over) and the insurance costs, which can be higher than other parts of the US. Make sure you determine what insurance is required by your mortgage lender and obtain a quote from your insurance agent, before committing to the purchase. Be sure to make receipt of an acceptable flood certification, a contingency of your initial offer. Keep in mind that the actual risk of your home even being subjected to damaging winds is remote over a lifetime of residency, and with educated selection, your home should be able to withstand the unlikely event of even a Category 5 hurricane. More radically, without a mortgage, a person with a solid wind mitigated house on high land with a high evacuation number, far enough from the coast, with sufficient funds set aside to make repairs and recover, might consider self insurance.
http://www.floridadisaster.org/Publi...eZones_Lee.pdf

Chinese drywall is estimated to be in less than 4000 homes in Florida (6,300 nationwide, with 58% in Florida - U.S. CPSC: Drywall Information Center ), and as well is found in most other States. Generally, it is believed to have been used between 2002 to 2009, with 2006 & 2007 being years of main concern, but there is no hard and fast rule. It could also be found in homes pre-2002, but which have been renovated. As always, it is absolutely necessary to get a licensed insured home inspector (who is a member of the American Society of Home Inspectors or another professional association) to thoroughly check the home for Chinese drywall and other issues such as termites and mold as well ($400ish depending). While this is a significant issue that should not be ignored, Chinese drywall is easily detectable by a professional, so this should not be a stumbling block.
2009 Chinese drywall controversy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environme...spections.html

If all this due diligence is scaring you off, choose to indefinitely rent to eliminate many of the expenses and risks of home ownership, such as being trapped by a house if you lose your job, divorce, or more remote risks such as condo gets into trouble and raises fees dramatically, the captive golf course goes under, builder folds with unfinished facilities, bad neighbors move in, city decides to put in city water and charge you, hurricane damage to area, personal health change, and so on. Enjoying the Florida lifestyle does not mean having to take on the risks of home ownership. Wait, and make a smart insider move in the off season, rather than a sucker Yankee move after a week of driving around.
ft myers / SW florida apts/housing for rent classifieds - craigslist
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